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Side Dishes: Two new dining spots open in St. Albans

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Eating in Franklin County? St. Albans has a pair of new options, one catering to a crowd that likes its food served with a twang, the other to a new, more urban breed of resident.

On May 28, The Rock Restaurant opened beside the Cadillac Motel & Resort on South Main Street. Owner Lendon Johnson, a native of Monterey, Calif., says he moved to Vermont 10 years ago to work in hospital food service.

Though Johnson says he’s “a city boy,” he’s just as quick to call himself a “cowboy.” That latter predilection can be seen in his fondness for 10-gallon hats and on his menu. Barbecued chicken, ribs, and a “rodeo burger” with barbecue sauce, bacon and cheddar are all available to families who come to watch NASCAR, sing karaoke or hear a live band in an alcohol-free environment.

On North Main Street, Blue Acorn is feeding a very different crowd. Co-owner Tim Cray says he transformed his popular Park Café into the new business two weeks ago to cater to St. Albans’ growing status as a “bedroom community” of Burlington commuters. Cray’s brother-in-law Eric Shawver, a recent transplant from South Florida, serves as the restaurant’s chef.

Blue Acorn’s eclectic menu is designed to draw late-night customers — the eatery offers dinner until midnight on Friday and Saturday and til 10 p.m. the rest of the week. Snackers can sample poutine, orange-coconut scallops, and five different chip-and-dip combos. Full dinners range from a portabella Napoléon to something called “delectable chicken” — a breast stuffed with spinach, blue cheese and bacon.

Cray says young professionals are flocking to his gold-walled eatery. He already considers the new venture a triumph, adding, “I haven’t had a single piece of food go back to the kitchen, and my servers look very happy every night.”

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